Blades of grass

Montgomery County Council Passes Pesticide Bill

lawn with pesticide use signThe Montgomery County Council passed Bill 52-14 by a 6 to 3 vote on Tuesday.

The legislation, commonly known as the pesticide bill, bans the use of EPA-registered pesticides in lawn care for most uses in the county including public and private playgrounds, mulched recreation areas, child care centers, and county property.

Advocates and opponents of the bill attended Tuesday’s council meeting that included a discussion from both sides of the issue. Councilmembers Craig Rice, Sidney Katz, and Roger Berliner voted against the bill.

Council President George Leventhal was the bill’s chief sponsor. Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer were co-sponsors.

“Today’s action is another step in the ongoing effort to make Montgomery County the healthiest, safest county in the country. Countless studies have linked pesticides to a wide range of health conditions in children and adults and, since the bill was introduced one year ago, I have received hundreds of reports from constituents of children and pets experiencing adverse effects from the application of pesticides,” Leventhal said.

The bill, however, was approved with amendments.

According to a news release, one of the amendments to the original bill will allow the Department of Parks to continue to use pesticides on playing fields as part of an integrated pest management program and requires the department to develop a plan that would lead to maintaining fields without pesticide use by 2020. The department will conduct a pilot program in the interim period to study the impact of maintaining fields without using pesticides.

More than 600 people attended public hearings on this bill held on Jan. 15 and Feb. 12. On today’s vote, county officials said more than 300 people were in attendance.

Katz, who voted against the bill, said he still has concerns and added that “today’s discussion made it abundantly clear that we don’t have all the answers.”

“The health and safety of our residents remains my utmost priority, and the Council should rightly do all it can to limit exposure to hazardous chemicals on the properties we maintain. However, I still have many concerns about how we encourage the reduction of chemicals on privately-maintained properties in a responsible, thoughtful, and cost-effective manner,” Katz said.

The bill takes effect on July 1, 2016 for county-owned property and parks. For private property, the bill takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

But restrictions do not apply to gardens.

“They do not restrict pesticide use for the control of noxious weeds or invasive species, for human health or agricultural purposes or to prevent significant economic damage,” according to a statement.

“Property owners have a right to maintain their own property, but they do not have a right to inflict harm upon their neighbors. Residents will still be free to hire any lawn care professional to treat their lawn or to manage their own lawn care, but they can do so now with the confidence that their family will be better protected,” Leventhal said.

At the meeting, Councilmember Rice said he has “a lot of concerns” about amendments on a bill that he thinks is “already problematic.”

Representatives from Safe Grow Montgomery, an advocacy group that leads a grassroots efforts, shared their support on a news release prior to today’s vote. According to the statement, more than 40 partner organizations joined Safe Grow Montgomery in support of the bill.

Opponents of this bill also shared thoughts through a news release. Members of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE), a national association representing workers involved with pesticide and fertilizer products, said this ban will hurt homeowners, their families, businesses and hundreds of lawn care workers.

“Lawmakers have spent nearly two years on a bill that provides no benefit to the citizens of Montgomery County. This bill is so extreme that it’s unenforceable. It’s also unnecessary. It puts the community’s health and workers’ livelihoods at risk. The council is going against federal and state regulatory guidance on what is safe and necessary for pest control, and also goes against the opinion of the National Cancer Institute, which says the scientific evidence to support such a ban is not conclusive,” said Karen Reardon, vice president of public affairs for RISE.

According to RISE’s news release, more than 600 letters in opposition to the bill were submitted to the council by residents and local businesses, and approximately 100 individuals opposing the bill attended the final vote on Tuesday morning.

More details about Bill 52-14 and related amendments are available here.
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Krista Brick

About Krista Brick

Krista Brick is a multi-media journalist with Montgomery Community Media.

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